Note: Brittany Murphy died on December 20, 2009 at age 32. The following
is my 2003 interview with her, published in the San Francisco Examiner.
She was a delightful person and I very much enjoyed my brief conversation with her.
She will be missed...
Clearly Brittany Murphy's heart is much too big for her to be alone; she
prefers to surround herself with friends and loved ones to help absorb
all that warmth. During a recent visit to San Francisco she not only
brought along Marley Shelton (Sugar & Spice), her co-star in the
upcoming film Uptown Girls, but also her mom and her best friend.
Moreover, she nearly burst into tears when discussing her other
co-star, 9 year-old Dakota Fanning. "I wish she were here! Then we'd
have a leader," she says. Apparently, Fanning taught Murphy and other
cast and crew members how to knit and pearl, and even called and sent
thank-you notes to everyone on the last day of shooting.
"She is a ray of sunshine. She just absolutely makes everyone's day,"
In Uptown Girls, which opens in Bay Area theaters on August 15,
Murphy plays Molly Gunn, a rock star's orphaned daughter who has been
living on a generous trust fund for 22 years and has never worked a day
in her life. When the trust fund suddenly collapses, she's forced to get
a job. Her best friend (Shelton) lands her a position as a nanny for a
rich, spoiled, very adult, cynical little girl, Ray Schleine (Fanning).
It's a fairly typical opposites-attract kind of story, but the
performances, the gentle direction by Boaz Yakin (Fresh) and the
beautiful New York cinematography by legendary Michael Ballhaus pull it
Of Ballhaus (The Marriage of Maria Braun, GoodFellas) Murphy
says, "he's an absolute genius. He comes to work every day with
suspenders and a smile."
Shelton agrees. "Tell an actress she's going to be shot by Michael
Ballhaus, and it's 'sign me up!' That was one of the major reasons I was
excited about doing Uptown Girls."
In addition, Murphy found herself reunited with her old Clueless
co-star Donald Faison. "He brings life and charm and charisma to any
scene," she says. "He's a good soul. It was like a reunion. We picked up
exactly where we left off."
Shelton joins in, praising Faison as a morale booster. "We'd be
shooting these club scenes in the middle of the day, which look a lot
more fun than they actually are. You're in a nightclub. It's hot, and
you've got hundreds of people crammed in this little space. And Donald
would get up on stage with this burst of energy. He's so funny. He got
Murphy's unabashed adoration for everyone who worked on Uptown
Girls does not stop at two-legged friends. In the film, Molly has a pet
pig, whom she must give away when her fortunes fall. Fortunately, little
Ray takes a shine to the little porker and adopts him.
In real life, Murphy says, there were two pigs. "They were precious
and darling to work with! They were played by two piggies named Softy
and Springer. One did all the drama, the other did all the comedy. They
hailed from a farm in New Jersey and they were raised for the film."
In the first part of the film, Murphy's character lives in an
expensive hotel room. The production designer's job was to load it up
with furniture, clothes, decorations and things that a real 22 year-old
daughter of a rock star would own.
"I walked into that space and felt at home immediately," Murphy says.
"Everything was miniaturized so that things would appear larger. It was
Shelton liked it too. "I stole a rug from her living room. It was
this gorgeous Asian rug. The production designer gave it to me after we
Though she has already acted in more than 25 movies and TV shows,
Murphy has always loved music. She not only studied ballet for 10 years
but has also written songs all her life. "I call them rants. I write in
this funny ranting form," she says.
She describes her musical tastes as 'eclectic" and rattles off a
corresponding list of her first four concerts: Run-DMC with the Fat
Boys, the Rat Pack reunion tour, Al Jarreau and Barbra Streisand.
Shelton laughs, impressed. "My first dorky concert? Amy Grant."
Now Murphy plans to turn singer and will record her first album this
November. "I'm really excited," she says. "It's something I have to do
and have wanted to do for a long time."
Speaking of music, Shelton and Murphy share one thing in common in
Uptown Girls -- they both blow their noses and make honking noises.
"I had to do looping (recording sound in the studio after principal
photography is completed) for that," Shelton says. "And the director
wanted me to make my honk longer than Brit's honk. And Brit's honk was
"We're both very klutzy," Murphy laughs. "I really do blow my nose
August 4, 2003